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– Frank von Hippel
Co-Director of Program on Science and Global Security, Princeton University
Blix to Head New Nonproliferation Commission
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Sweden’s foreign ministry announced Dec. 11 that Hans Blix, the recently retired head of the United Nations Monitoring, Verification, and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) will chair a Stockholm-funded, independent commission on the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

The commission is to “present realistic proposals aimed at the greatest possible reduction of the dangers of weapons of mass destruction, including both short-term and long-term approaches and both non-proliferation and disarmament aspects,” according to a Dec. 16 foreign ministry fact sheet. Sweden agreed to set up the commission after UN Undersecretary-General for Disarmament Affairs Jayantha Dhanapala proposed the idea in 2002.

Explaining the commission’s raison d’etre, Swedish Foreign Minister Laila Freivalds said that “new initiatives are needed in the efforts for disarmament and non-proliferation.” The fact sheet pointed out that, despite the work of past nonproliferation commissions, new efforts are needed because “the international situation has changed considerably, not least through the increased risk of mass destruction terrorism.”

Although the commission must still decide on a specific work plan, Blix identified several possible subjects for inquiry during a Dec. 16 press conference. These include the risk of WMD terrorism and concerns over Iran’s and North Korea’s nuclear programs, as well as India’s and Pakistan’s nuclear arsenals.

The Dec. 16 fact sheet gave additional details about the commission: 15 international experts serving “in their personal capacity” will make up the “fully independent” commission, which is to present its final report to the UN secretary-general and all member states near the end of 2005.